Cornish Pirates ready for difficult game against in-form rivals
Few visitors to Mennaye Field can boast the sort of recent Championship form London Scottish will bring to west Cornwall on Sunday.
Unbeaten league leaders Newcastle Falcons won by their narrowest margin of the season to date against Scottish at Kingston Park in December.
Since then, the Exiles have beaten the two other sides above fourth-placed Pirates in the table – Bedford Blues and Nottingham.
Doncaster Knights have also fallen as their new coaching team of Simon Amor, Serge Betsen, James Buckland and Jim Evans have gradually settled into their roles.
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London Scottish's recent spell has certainly not gone unnoticed. Pirates head coach Ian Davies said: "They are the form horses and anybody who saw the game on TV they played against Newcastle would have said London Scottish should have won.
"We know this weekend is going to be a really tough game. It is no surprise to us that London Scottish are performing well. They were under-performing at the start of the season with the squad they have got.
"The move to full-time coaches is something that may have tipped the balance for them. The big advantage we've got is that we are at home and most of our victories have come at the Mennaye."
Davies admits his men are still irritated by their defeat to Scottish earlier in the season. He said: "We had a really close game against Scottish back in October in a game we threw away really. We allowed London Scottish to snatch the win just as we did against them last season. We are still smarting from the previous time we played them because it is a game we should have won."
Former Redruth players Mark Bright and PJ Gidlow are likely to make the trip this weekend. Davies said: "We are massively aware of Mark Bright but if you put all your focus on him, then you have others like PJ Gidlow, Andy Reay, Oli Grove, Phil Godman, Chevvy Pennycook – there are so many players that are top quality.
"Their set-piece is always strong with Mark Irish in there and Tyler Hotson, who we know from his time at Plymouth. It will be a tough battle for the forwards and we know they have threats in their backs."
Pirates have injuries to contend with following their 31-18 win over Doncaster last Sunday. "Tom Bedford will not be fit for this week because he rolled his ankle again," said Davies. "Ben Maidment will know on Friday and we have question marks over Alan Paver, Gavin Cattle, David Lyons, Rob Elloway, Junior Fatialofa and Kieran Hallett."
However, fly-half Jonny Bentley is nearing a return from a long-term Achilles tendon injury. Davies said: "Jonny is still a long way off. He is pencilled in for the end of March but having him back on the training park is massive.
"For him to be lacing up his boots and throwing a rugby ball around is a great boost. There will be ups and down between now and March and we will see what happens.
"We could be in the semi-finals of the British and Irish Cup and the play-offs in the Championship so it may be difficult for him to get game time."